Paul and Silas head west through Turkey on their second missionary journey. Interestingly they add a new disciple to their team, Timothy. This is the Timothy that the epistles, the letters, are written to – 1 and 2 Timothy. Timothy like Paul has a mixed family heritage. Paul was a Roman citizen because of his father and a Jew because of his mother. Timothy is a Greek because of his father and a Jew because of his mother. Jewish people traced their heritage through their mother! But then Paul seemingly contradicts himself. Having just argued in the previous chapter for the inclusion of the Gentiles into Christianity without becoming Jews, Paul now circumcises Timothy. Houston, do we have a problem?
Again we are drawn to the thinking of the Jerusalem elders in the previous chapter when they decide that the goal is to include people of faith, not necessarily to make sure all Jewish laws are followed. This does not diminish the truth of the Mosaic law but looks to the big picture. We are not trying to disciple replicas of ourselves but help others to believe and become the person God wants them to be. They may worship slightly differently than we do or sing different types of songs of love different books in the Bible but we can fellowship because of faith, not rules. The translation of Scripture is an example of our understanding of “living word.” Christians do not insist everyone learn Greek and Hebrew and have a common language but believe God speaks in all languages and cultures.
Also, if Paul, as was his custom in his travels, goes first to the Jewish synagogue when he enters a town as that is his comfortable entrance point, then he needed Timothy to not be a stumbling block. Circumcision was necessary to gain voice, not to fulfill law. If my actions are offending another, then I am obliged to present my story in words that do not offend. This is seen is not eating food offered to idols if that causes another to stumble. We curb our language or our actions not to offend others.
So spiritual growth challenges me to consider my ability to discipline my likes so that I do not offend another. It is easy to expect others to act as I act, believe as I believe, and worship as I worship. Perhaps it is looking for the truth, for the presence of the triune God, in another’s spiritual journey. Lord help us to be wise as we share our story and help us to recognize you working in another persons story also. May we never be a stumbling block to faith.